Justice Agwu Umah Kalu of Abia State High Court sitting in Isuikwuato has ordered the Senate of the Abia State University, Uturu, to immediately restore the degree result and certificate of a former governor of the state, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, withdrawn from him over allegations of fraud and breach of regulations concerning admission and graduation. In a judgement delivered on Wednesday, the court held that the action of the Senate of the institution in withdrawing Kalu’s result and certificate over the allegation without giving the former governor an opportunity to defend himself is a breach of his constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing. The court also quashed the proceedings, decisions, findings and or report of the Abia State University’s Ad-hoc Senate Investigation Panel that was set up to investigate the allegations.
The judge held: “In the case before us, it is clear that the defendants (Abia State University and its Senate) did not accord the claimant (Dr. Kalu) his right to fair hearing. He was not informed of the petition written against him. He was not shown the exhibit “E”. “The claimant was not informed of the setting up of the Senate Ad-hoc Panel to investigate the matter of the exhibit “E” as it concerned the claimant. “The claimant was not invited to the sittings of the said Ad-hoc panel and the 2nd defendant (Abia State University) before each arrived at the decision adverse to the interest of the claimant.
“In a nutshell, the defendants did not afford the claimant common courtesy, decency and natural justice. Even God, in all His omniscience, did not pass a sentence upon Adam before he was called upon to make his defence. “Following all I have said above, the court holds that the suit of the claimant is meritorious and grants all the reliefs sought by the claimant.
The court proceeds to declare that the report of the Ad-hoc Senate Investigation Panel on allegations of Fraud and Breach of Regulations concerning the admission and graduation of the claimant (Kalu, Orji U. 00/42226- GDP) and the decision of the Senate of the Abia State University of 1st March, 2013, which cancelled and withdrew the degree result of the claimant (Kalu Orji U. 00/42226-GDP) without affording the claimant an opportunity to defend the grave allegations against him amounted to a breach of the claimant’s right to a fair hearing guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”
The court held that: “Now, in consequence of the above declaration, the court issues an order removing into this court for the purpose of its being quashed, the proceedings, decisions, findings and or report of the Abia State University’s Ad-hoc Senate Investigation Panel on Allegations of Fraud and Breach of Regulations concerning the admission and graduation of the claimant, (Kalu, Orji U. 00/42226-GPD) for breach of the claimant’s right to fair hearing guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“The court further issues an order removing into this court, for the purpose of its being quashed, the decision of the 2nd defendant made on the 1st day of March, 2013, which was based on the report of the Abia State University Senate’s Adhoc Investigation Panel on Allegations of Fraud and Breach of Regulations concerning the admission and graduation of the claimant, (Kalu Orji, U. 00/42226-GPD) for breach of the claimant’s right to fair hearing guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended).
“Finally, an order issues from this court mandating and/or directing the 2nd defendant to immediately restore the degree result and certificate of the claimant Kalu Orji, U. 00/42226/- GPD.” The court also directed the defendants to pay N100,000 as cost of filing the suit to Dr. Kalu.
The former governor had filed the suit on May 27, 2013, to challenge the decision of the Senate of Abia State University to withdraw his degree result and certificate over the alleged offences without giving him fair hearing. Abia State University and the Senate of the institution were joined as 1st and 2nd respondents respectively in the suit.
While testifying in the matter, Dr. Kalu told the court that at the regular meeting of the 2nd defendant held on Wednesday, 30th October, 2002, his degree result (Kalu, Orji U 00/42226 GDP) was approved by the defendants. However, the claimant said that on or about Monday, March 4, 2013, he was inundated with phone calls from his political associates, well-wishers and other well-meaning Nigerians concerning a publication in some national newspapers indicating that his degree result and certificate has been withdrawn over alleged breach of the extant academic regulations of Abia State University, in the process of his admission and graduation.
In his further evidence in chief, the claimant told the court that in arriving at their various decisions that were adverse to him, neither the Ad-hoc Panel of investigation into the allegations nor the Senate heard from him. Specifically, the claimant testified that the defendants and their agents did not inform him of the existence of any allegation concerning him, the identity or identities of those making the allegation and he was not afforded an opportunity to make representations in respect of the said allegations made against him.
The claimant said that defendants, in addition, denied him of the opportunity of confronting his accusers as the defendants and their agents carried on with their investigations behind him and without concern for his right to fair hearing as guaranteed by the Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap 10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and, indeed, the laws of natural justice. The claimant contended that he has a right to be heard from before the defendants and their agencies took such an adverse decision against him.
In their notice of objection, the defendants contended that the suit is premature and that the claimant did not seek or exhaust the domestic remedies as provided in section 9 of the Abia State University Edict No. 5 of 1995 before approaching the court. They, therefore, urged the court to strike out same.
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